Meditation Moments


A guest post by Jogyata Dallas

A deep meditation is one of the most beautiful and fulfilling of all possible experiences. Once we have learnt how to find our way into that inner stillness and desireless peace that is always there inside us, our life will never be the same. Here in the sanctuary of the heart, free of time and the burdens of the mind, everything is clear, everything is already done. Out of this silence comes wisdom, understanding and delight.

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A Meditation Exercise For Self-Discovery

I occasionally give meditation classes in my home city of Dublin. The great thing about giving classes is that they attract amazing people from all different corners of the globe and walks of life. Many of them are there looking for techniques to relieve the increasing amount of stress and anxiety that they face in their lives. Others, though, come looking for something that goes beyond just stress relief; they feel that meditation can somehow give them a deeper sense of themselves, and expand their awareness of who they are. And they are right. It can.

Many of the exercises we teach in our classes stem from one very simple secret I learned from my meditation teacher, Sri Chinmoy – to meditate on the heart instead of the mind. Seeing as our overactive mind is the source of many of our worries, meditating in the mind can often lead to tension and stress. On the other hand, the heart is that space in the middle of the chest we point to when we refer to ourselves, so naturally it is a very good place to begin any journey of self-discovery.

This meditation exercise works on two levels – it helps to purify the mind of all the superfluous chatter that gets in the way of our self discovery, and (more importantly) it makes us identify with a much deeper part of our nature that goes beyond the body or the mind. When we are in the heart, we see that it is always aspiring and reaching towards a greater sense of happiness. And according to all the great meditation teachers, that sense of perfection and true happiness lies within us, in the highest part of our being – for example, Zen Buddhism talks about how we are already enlightened, we just need to uncover it, and of course there is the famous utterance of the Christ “the Kingdom of Heaven is within you”. We call this highest part of our being the soul, although many people have their own language to describe it.


1. It doesn’t matter if you use a cushion or a chair to sit; the important thing is that you keep your back straight. For this exercise, you can keep your eyes closed and your hands turned upwards on your lap.

2. For the first couple of minutes, just slowly scan through your body from to bottom, making sure that everything is relaxed. Make any little adjustment you need to make to ensure your body is relaxed and free of tension. Pay particular attention to your neck and shoulders as this is where a lot of tension builds up.

3. When we are fully relaxed, we will begin the meditation proper. When you breathe in, slowly repeat to yourself “I have no mind, I have no mind. What I have is the heart.” As you say this, try to feel that at this moment the mind does not exist, that the only part of you that is truly real is the heart. As you feel more and more that the heart is the only real part of you there, your attention will be focused there more and more. If the mind interrupts with its thoughts, don’t worry, just bring your attention back to the exercise.

4. After 3 or 4 minutes, we can take a step further, from the heart into the soul. This time repeat to yourself “I don’t have a heart. What I have is the soul.” Feel that deep inside the heart lies the soul, the highest part of your being, which is all beauty and all light. Again, feel that the soul is the only real part of you – this will naturally bring your attention more and more to it.

5. After another few minutes, you can take a further step, saying this time “I am the soul”. This beauty, joy and peace is not just something lying dormant inside you, it is what you truly are. As you say this, you are far beyond the limitations of your mind and body, and you can feel as tremendous feeling of purity and inner freedom enter your being. Try and stay in this beautiful space for as long as you can.

A lot of people who come to meditation classes have very beautiful experiences from doing exercises like this one – the experiences tend to vary from person to person, as the exercise serves to bring our the unique qualities of your soul. If anyone is inspired to try and let us know if they had any nice experiences, we’d be more than happy to hear about it!

Photo: Sri Chinmoy Centre Galleries

The three stages of meditation

The first time many of us encounter the concept of meditation is through images in TV and movies, showing cross legged yogis sitting in serene bliss for hours on end. However, any of you who have ever tried meditation know that that is a pretty advanced state, and not something that can be attained by just going to a workshop or two! In fact the journey can be broken into three different stages – concentration, meditation and contemplation, as described below:


Many meditation teachers recommend their students to learn the art cof concentration before they embark on meditation proper, and indeed many of the exercises taught in introductory meditation classes could more aptly be called concentration exercises, as they teach the art of quieting the mind and bringing the multiplicity of thoughts buzzing around our minds to just one – focusing on the object of concentration. From a personal perspective, I can definitely vouch for how important this is – I have lost count of the times I was having a very nice meditation experience, only to lose track of it by being carried away by the most mundane thoughts. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about a very nice concentration exercise you can use; you can also begin with something a simple and as natural as focusing on the breath, letting your attention follow the breath as it moves in through the nose and out through the mouth.


Once we have stilled the mind and brought our focus down to one thought, we can then move into meditation proper. We move beyond the mind and expand into the space of vastness and peace that lies beyond out thought. We have all had meditative moments before – looking at the sun setting over the beach or holding a newborn child in your arms, moments where in the silence all of life seemed to be contained and where everything just seemed to make sense. Through meditation, we expand this state of awareness and make it a real and permanent part of your daily life.

Once we gain regular experiences of meditative stillness, we can live our lives knowing that there is a core of contentment inside us that does not depend on how things are going on around us – that the true source of happiness is within.


In contemplation, we move beyond merely experiencing these realms of peace and bliss inside ourselves; we try to merge and become one with the experience, so that we are the peace and bliss we are experiencing. In other words, the lowest part of our being enters into and unites with the highest part. People usually do not embark upon contemplation until they have spent at least a few years concentrating and meditation, and there are very few people who have absolutely perfected this art.

As children we believe that we can be anything we want, and then begin settling for less all throughout our adolescence and adulthood. In contemplation, our sense of self-awareness expands and we realise that anything is truly possible, that there are no limits is we truly believe in ourselves. At that stage we truly begin to realise and act from our highest potential.

Concentration challenges the restless world.

Meditation graces the aspiring world.

Contemplation embraces the beautiful world.

– Sri Chinmoy

Image source: World Harmony Run

A Simple Meditation Exercise


Recently, Shane offered a simple and easy to learn concentration exercise.

The essence of concentration is the ability to focus on one thing at a particular time. This focus and one pointed concentration is essential to good meditation. If we practice concentration exercises it will definitely help our meditation.  In this meditation exercise, we are again concentrating on one particular thing. This time it is our breathing.

As well as concentrating, the secret to meditating well is the ability to silence our thoughts. Although this might feel difficult at first, it does become easier with practice.

Simple Meditation Exercise – Breathing

  1. Be conscious of your breathing. It should not be forced, but, gentle and relaxed. If someone placed a feather in front of your nose it should barely move.
  2. When you breathe in, feel that you are breathing in solid peace. Imagine that this peace is peculating your whole body.
  3. When you breathe out feel that you are exhaling any tension, worries or anxieties.
  4. Just for a moment, you can hold your breathe after the inhalation. When you hold your breathe concentrate on the absolute stillness and silence. No thought should enter your mind.
  5. The aim is to become fully aware of our breathing. We are trying to identify totally with this simple action. But, it is more than just breathing in mechanically. We are exercising our imagination to feel new life and real sense of peace entering our being.
  6. By focusing exclusively on the relaxing movement of our breathing, we switch off from the usual mental thought processes. By doing this we are able to enter into meditation.

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An easy to learn concentration exercise

Concentration is the secret key to a whole world of possibilities, enabling you to keep out distractions and focus on attaining your life goals. In addition it is an absolute prerequisite if you want to learn the art of meditation, as it helps ‘clear the road’ of any mental obstacles. However if anything the average concentration span is decreasing as life gets busier and busier and the world becomes filled with more things to distract and scatter our attention.

Here is one very easy-to-learn concentration exercise which was taught to me by my meditation teacher Sri Chinmoy. It can reap tremendous rewards in terms of clarity, productivity and efficiency in your life, and it can be done with just a few minutes practise every day. People commonly view concentration as purely a mental exercise; but here we are also going use our heart centre, that space in our chest we point to when we say ‘me’ – helping to take some of the burden away from our tension filled minds.


An object of concentration – best is to use a candle or flower, but you can even use a dot on the wall.


  1. In this exercise, we will use the candle, although you can adapt the exercise to whatever object you are using. Sit with your back straight, and place the burning candle at eye level.
  2. First bring your awareness to your breath. Gradually your breath becomes slower and more relaxed. Try to imagine a thread placed in front of our nose; you are breathing so quietly it will not move to and fro.
  3. Now we look at the object. Gradually bring your attention to a tiny part of the candle flame, for example, the very tip of the flame.
  4. When you breathe in, feel that your breath, like a golden thread, is coming from that point on the candle and entering into your heart. And when you breath out, feel that your breath, feel that the light is leaving the heart, passing through a point in your forehead between the eyebrows and a little above (in Eastern philosophy this is a powerful concentration point) and then entering into the object of concentration. Try to feel that nothing else exists except you and the object you are focusing on.
  5. When you do this exercise, thoughts will invariably get in the way. When this happens, don’t be annoyed or upset, just bring your attention back to the exercise. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and similarly it will take time to rein in your mind.
  6. (if you have the time) You can go one step further, and use your power of concentration to identify with the object’s existence. Try to feel on the inbreath that the existence of the flame, and the qualities it embodies such as radiance, serenity and aspiration, are entering into you and becoming part of your own existence. On the outbreath, feel that your existence is expanding and spreading out from the centre of the chest and entering into the candle. In this way, you concentrate on the object to such an extent that you feel no separation between you and the object; your existence has expanded to include the candle. In this way you can identify ourself with the entire world.

Start off with a modest goal – i.e 3-5 minutes a day, and then gradually increase with time. After only a couple of weeks of doing this exercise, you should notice the progress – a clearer mind, better ability to cope with tasks, less stress, more serenity.

If you are inspired to try, please let us know how you got on! Good luck!

Shane Magee regularly gives meditation classes in Dublin on behalf of the Sri Chinmoy Centre. For more information visit Dublin Meditation


Happiness from the inside out

“It is impossible not to notice that, in some of the poorest parts of the world, most people, most of the time, appear to be happier than we are. In southern Ethiopia, for example, the poorest half of the poorest nation on earth, the streets and fields crackle with laughter. In homes constructed from packing cases and palm leaves, people engage more freely, smile more often, express more affection than we do behind our double glazing, surrounded by remote controls. This is not to suggest that poverty causes happiness…but while poverty does not cause happiness, there appears to be some evidence that wealth causes misery. Since 1950, 25-year-olds in Britain have become 10 times more likely to be affected by depression. And it is surely fair to say that most of us suffer from subclinical neuroses, anxiety or a profound discomfort with ourselves.”

George Monbiot, The Guardian, 27 August 2002

Since childhood, we are subtly yet continuously guided to look to the outside world and the material benefits it offers for contentment and happiness, such that for many of us, it is the only real way we know. Yet as we become repeatedly disappointed by outer events, we begin to lose faith in the possibility of there being any happiness at all. Instead of looking to outer events for inner happiness (living from the outside in), let us consider instead what happens when we instead look inwardly for happiness and then bring what receive from there to the outer world – living from the inside out. To those who have been embittered against the possibilities of happiness, the life changing effects this simple change in philosophy can bring may sound too good to be true, and yet millions of people from all over the world can attest to a happiness that comes not from chasing after the material things of the world, but from being grounded in the joy and inner peace of their own being.

A sense of purpose

When we start the day by going deep within through some practice of meditation (or prayer for those who are religiously inclined), slowly we begin to get in touch with the deepest parts of our being, and feel a connection to something vast and infinite, a greater sense of purpose than our own narrow desires and wants. In this space, – who you are, and what you are supposed to be doing with the short span of life you have on earth.

The funny thing is, each of us instinctively know this, and deep within we are always meaning to stop and catch some space to find out what we want – we always tell ourselves we will do it when we finish whatever it is we are caught up in at the moment! The Tibetan Buddhist teacher Sogyal Rinpoche called this ‘Western laziness’ – “cramming our lives with compulsive activity, so that there is no time at all to confront the real issues.” The outside world is often guilty of driving this behavour along, as if it knows that if we ever slowed down, the whole thing would just fall apart. Continue reading “Happiness from the inside out”

Things I Have Learnt From Meditation

sunset driftwood

I have been practising meditation for 9 years. Since I started, I never recall missing a day. Meditation has become something automatic and instinctive; whatever is happening externally, meditation is a constant undercurrent in my life. During the past 9 years, these are some of the things I have learnt from meditating.

It is Easy To Meditate Badly.

It is easy to sit down in meditation and spend 30 minutes with pleasant thoughts going through your mind; but, this is not really meditation. Unless there is a conscious and deliberate effort to silence the mind, your meditation is of little benefit. There is nobody who is going to reward you just for sitting in a chair for a long time. What counts is our ability to silence the mind; this is the essence of meditation, no matter what path we follow.

Meditation is part personal effort – part grace.

In the beginning we feel meditation is all personal effort. But, when we meditate well, we paradoxically feel that we are not making any effort at all. It feels like there is something that is meditating on our behalf. This experience occurs because the soul comes to the fore. Good meditation doesn’t involve our mind; but, our inner being or soul. This is why there is a strange feeling of not actually doing anything.

Good Meditation Always wants to Share.

One of the most surprising features of meditation is that when you meditate well, there is an unmistakeable desire to inwardly share this consciousness with others. There is a feeling that the peace you experience, instinctively belongs to others. It is not possible to separate the meditative consciousness and keep it for yourself. Meditation expands our sense of awareness; it gives an unexpected sense of connection with other people. This is not a mere intellectual idea of oneness; but something that can only ever be felt and experienced.


If you have a powerful meditation there is a strong sense of gratitude; this is much more than our usual polite way of saying thank-you. It is a spontaneous feeling that our meditation is a gift which we can only feel gratitude for.

The Ego wants to Spoil Meditation.

It is quite common that good meditation becomes spoilt by the intervention of the ego. Our meditation may go very well, but then the ego starts to spoil it by creating a sense of spiritual pride. When we feel pride in our meditation, we know it has taken the wrong turn. To meditate well, we have to give up all idea and concept of displaying anything to other people. When we meditate well there is no desire for anyone to outwardly know. Meditation is something sacred that can only be shared inwardly. In the best meditation there is no sense of self; perhaps momentarily we forget about our sense of “i ness”. We feel that the meditation is impersonal, and just about consciousness.

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Meditation and Compassion


A new study shows that meditation can help bring forward the quality of compassion. – Meditate on this.

I think the reason meditation brings forward the quality of compassion is that when we meditate we transcend the mind. The mind is by nature critical; it thinks of things to judge and criticise. When we meditate we quieten the critical mind and bring to the fore the inner qualities of the heart. In meditation we also expand our sense of self. We do not just identify with our ego, but feel a greater sense of oneness with other people.

We have written a few posts on meditation including

Other Recommended Links

  • Alex Shalman shares his experiences of practising meditation in – The Monk’s way to inner peace. As Alex suggests, meditation is not always easy but, if you create a regular discipline it becomes more natural as you progress.
  • Albert from Urban monk shares a thoughtful contribution on Love and Aloneness It is strange that we can spend so much time with other people, and yet still feel a sense of loneliness. It is often the ego that creates barriers and a sense of separation; it is this that really creates a sense of loneliness. It reminded me of a post by Shane on the difference between love and emotional attachment
  • Another article I liked very much recently is How To Find Your True purpose by Todd at We The Change. I think it asks very thoughtful questions and doesn’t overcomplicate the essential process of self inquiry and self discovery.
  • Sumangali wrote a good post – 7 Surprising things that are good for your health. – good news for chocolate lovers!


Thanks to all our commentators, especially Chris Cade of Spiritual Short Stories, whose comment on The Art of Forgiveness was worthy of a post by itself.

Random Links

If you are looking for a really good laugh, I can highly recommend this British film classic staring Peter Sellers and a plethora of stars. – The Wrong Arm of the Law had me laughing all the way through.

Photo by: Tejvan, Oxford Botanic Gardens

How to maintain a lasting meditation practice


Many people begin a meditation practice with tremendous enthusiasm and excitement about the possiblilities of self-discovery, only to let it go after a few weeks or months as the initial novelty wears off. How can you keep up a meditation practice and, in addition, continue it with the same inspiration and freshness as you had when you first began to meditate? Here are a few suggestions:

Set a proper time each day.

Quite often the reason why a meditation practice gets pushed to the sidelines is that we don’t value it enough compared to the other things we have going on in our life.

Valuing your meditation practice means setting aside a definite time each day – even if it is only 10 minutes – that is dedicated to meditation, and non-negotiable as regards moving/cancelling to make room for something else. The best time is undoubtedly as soon as you wake up in the morning. Firstly, there is much less likelihood of unforeseen distractions and secondly, the atmosphere is much more tranquil, allowing you to have deeper meditative experiences and take the inner peace from those experiences as you enter into the day.

Your own special space

It is best if you have some part of your house dedicated solely for the purpose of your daily meditation, a place set aside for yourself and your own self-discovery. You can decorate this space with anything that inspires you and brings the beautiful qualities in you to the fore – candles, pictures of mountains or sunsets or any nature scene, fresh flowers, a statue of the Christ or the Buddha if you are religiously inclined, beautiful poetry that inspires you to go deep within – you can really make this place your own Aladdin’s Cave of inner wealth and treasures, so that every time you sit down, you are automatically reminded of the goal of self-awareness you are striving for through meditation. As you go deeper into meditation, you will find out different things that inspire you, and you can continually update your meditation space to reflect that.

A constant sense of newness

A successful meditation practice requires a constant sense of aspiration to get in touch with your inner nature. You need to find ways to continually regenerate this sense of enthusiasm and not drift into a sense of ‘same-old, same-old’ and to do it out of routine – this has been the death-knell for many a meditation practice, as then the mind takes over and wonders why we are doing something so joyless in the first place.

Try changing elements of your meditation from time to time, incorporating readings, nature meditations, mantras, music or anything else that inspires you – if you have a spontaneous inner feeling to do something, then go with it! Another thing that also helps is setting yourself little meditative projects, for example setting aside extra time to meditate once a week, learning new meditative songs, or chanting a series of mantras over a couple of weeks. Rather than sitting on ones laurels and being content with the same measure of inner peace you had yesterday, a meditation practice should always have a sense of adventure and exploration deeper into the self.

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Practical Tips to Improve Concentration

leaf water jowan

This post is inspired by an email from a reader. The reader mentioned that he found it very difficult to concentrate. He felt his mind was ‘random and is in utter chaos’.

Firstly, you are not alone; generally it is the nature of the mind to be unruly. However, it is possible to slowly and steadily improve your concentration. Do not expect instant results, and do not get despondent if it is more difficult than you would like. Perseverance is important. These are some tips:

Some Places are more conducive to concentration.

Some students have great difficulty working in certain environment’s yet, when they are placed under timed conditions in an exam hall they often find concentration much easier. If you are getting distracted in one place, trying working somewhere else. Generally, the less distractions the better.

One Pointedness

With any form of concentration it is important to concentrate on only one thing at a time. If you are working, but half your attention is elsewhere, you will always struggle to maintain good concentration. Set aside time for work and focus only on that and nothing else. You need to make a conscious decision to concentrate on your work. If you just drift into work, with a relaxed care free attitude you will probably start thinking about other things. If you sit an exam, feel that nothing else exists or matters apart from doing the exam.

Don’t Allow Thoughts to take you away.

This is the key to concentration – don’t allow your mind to distract you with random thoughts. When unrelated thoughts appear in the mind, pay no attention to them and try to immediately switch off. Even if thoughts keep coming, you must distance yourself and detach from them. It is important not to get mad with yourself or frustrated if thoughts are persistent. If you persevere in rejecting useless and unhelpful thoughts, there will come a time when they stop bothering you. It is important never to give up in your attempt to control your thoughts – it is possible.

See: How To Control Your Thoughts

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